It’s easy to see why the European art scene is going wild for Vuk Cuk, the Belgrade based artist who has just opened a new exhibition The Whole New World. His pop bright artworks define his body of work, yet the latest is bringing life to his sculpture with a touch of A.I.
Vuk Cuk sits down for a special interview with Editor Maja Vuckovic.
Read the interview after the jump:
What brought you to the art world?
I detest the idea of working under authority. So I guess one of the main reasons was the sense of freedom you get by practicing it. You can start from wherever, get inspired by regular everyday things or some deep thought you had, you choose your working hours… Everything is allowed, and everything is up to you. I am not a very good team player, so being an artist suits my personality perfectly. Also, there is the fact that I always liked to find other ways to express myself, say what I have to say, rather than with words.
What was your earliest memory of appreciating art and also making art?
One of the earliest memories I have are the ones of my mom drawing horses for me. She would put my favorite toy, a plastic horse, in front of us, on the dining table, turn on the spotlight above us, and just started drawing from a live model. She wasn’t an artist but she was quite talented. I remember being fascinated by the process and the relationship between the drawing and the real life object and how similar they were to each other. It opened a new door in my mind. After she did it for the first time I wanted to experience the same feeling again and again and I was very persistent into making her do the same thing almost on a daily basis. And for some time it was just that one same horse all over again. I admire her patience and dedication now that I recall those times. Guess she is the one of the people most responsible for me becoming an artist. I still keep those drawings and they have a really special place in my heart.
Regarding myself making art, I think it was about the age of 10 that I started doing graffiti, but mostly sketches on paper, on the back of my school notebooks. I was never too excited of making the real works out on the street. It seemed like too much effort for something not protected and left for anyone to overdraw it.
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How do you usually start conceiving a new work? How do you get inspired?
No standard method to be honest. Normally I go to my studio on a daily basis and figure what I am going to do on the spot. I collect a lot of object that catch my attention: from toys to different materials and everyday objects, and then I just start playing with what I choose to be the subject of the day.
Do you ever think about audience’s reaction when thinking about a new work?
Not really, what is important for me is to be satisfied by the work myself. I am sending my message to the world and because of that it is important for work to be what I want it to be. Its like having a conversation, its not about telling people what they want to hear, its about stating your own viewpoint and you go from there.
Where does your motivation come from?
Just from my everyday desire to create something new, and push my limits.
Everything is consumed rapidly, including information. It requires us to be faster, and create faster. Are you able to keep up? Are you ideas ever compromised because of this?
Maybe when I have a deadline for the show, but normally I organize my time very well. I don’t remember sending work out without feeling good about it at the time. For me its always about the quality rather then quantity.
What are the themes that continue on through your work?
I work really intuitively and so, in my mind, I imagine that the new series of works are always completely different then the previous ones. It is only after some time distance that I realize how similar they actually are. It is very surprising when I see almost the same elements repeating in my current work with some of the works I did when I was a student and I totally forgot all about. In a way its also satisfying because it tells me that I am honest to myself and that I am able to extend myself onto my work. That is probably the key thing for me: to be able to talk about my own experience and time that I lived in, trough my work.
We are currently living in a times where our everyday life is changing rapidly, mixed between technological advance that makes our lives easier, and our own destruction of the planet that endangers our only habitat. You could say that from my earliest works to the newest ones, my main topic has been the relation between artificial and natural, and since that relation is evolving really quickly, so does my work.
Your studio is a particularly important place for you.
Building in which my studio is, is at a very peculiar location in Belgrade. It stands right next to most of the government buildings and Ministries of Serbia. It looks directly to the back entrance of the building of the government of Serbia, and is actually the place from which our prime minister at the time, Zoran Djindjic was assassinated back in 2003. It has a dark history.
Also, because of its location, I can hear, while I am working, all the noise and shouting from the protests that happen every week in front of the government. That suits me in a strange way. Artists studio can be a lonely place, and since I am working there every day you often have a feeling of detachment of the outer world. With everything happening outside I surpass that feeling, without sacrificing time I devote to my work. It’s a reminder that a world outside exists.
Your art evolved from 2 dimensions to 3 dimensions. Tell me about the process?
I have obtained a degree in painting, but the classic form of painting has never satisfied me. It was never enough for me to just simply start from a blank canvas or piece of paper. From an early stage of my artist career I started experimenting with form and shape, so it came naturally to start deconstructing classic painting into a free shape objects. At first they were flat materials that I painted on in the series called “IMPOSSIBLE PERSPECTIVES” (2016.). Later they transformed into a wall sculptures with multiple flat layers in a series “AESTHETICAL SYSTEMS”(2017) and “METAFORMS” (2019.). I have been occupied by the free standing objects for quite some time also (PLASTIC ZOO, 2103.), but I think it came to its place in my latest solo show named “A WHOLE NEW WORLD” that is currently on display in Gallery Zvono in Belgrade. I got bored with the static art and started introducing movement into my works, involving electro motors and programming. Works became more eclectic, made out of wide range of materials that are later painted, drawn over or engraved. Its my obsession currently and I feel really empowered by the whole process, it reminds me of the enthusiasm I had when I just started drawing.
Your current exhibition, The Whole New World, examines the human-robot interaction. Tell me more about it. Why robots?
I wouldn’t necessarily consider them as robots. For me they are more like kinetic sculptures that have a kind of suggestive figurative form, but at the same time they are very abstract. I don’t know, they are just composition of everything I did and learned so far trough my artistic practice and all the new things I am still learning trough the process, hence the title. I always tried to determine what are the things that define era I am living in. I was born in the late 80’sand at that time and while I was growing up technology was very inferior compared to nowadays, and I have a feeling people forget that. Internet, smartphones, social networking are all such an integral part of our lives that they seem like they existed forever. We are bombarded by the information, and everything around us craves our attention. That’s why my artworks are moving, glowing, making sounds, interacting, showing video projections… They are trying to single themselves out of the chaos that surrounds us.
It also points on some very important environmental issues.
It is also a very important factor of our time. At one side we are developing the technology that makes our lives easier, but while doing it we are destroying our only possible habitat. No matter how developed digital world is we are still biological beings and we cannot survive without basic conditions. That’s why I use a lot of fake plastic plants in my work… I create a setting which, from far away, looks natural and inviting and then when you come closer you see it in all its plastic and cheap execution.
Do you like our era, the Anthropocene?
I like the idea of making tools that helps us in our everyday life and allows us more free time for our own activity of choosing. What I think we need is to be more responsible towards our planet and I hope that the global society is going in that direction, although destroying this and finding another planet to inhabit is also an option and doesn’t sound that impossible frankly.
In your previous work you were using a very large color palette. Now you are going back to basics. Why?
There is no intention behind it. When you are in a process of constant creation, your work always evolves. I think this is just a natural consequence. I work very intuitively and I let my works and process behind them talk to me. So the newest one just didn’t ask for color interventions, they were good the way they are. It is related to the fact that, in a last ten years, I have been collecting a lot of weird objects, finding them on the street while walking by, and also buying them. They are not the objects of high material value, they rather had an aesthetic one for me. So as the collection grew, I realized that I would either start using them for something, or I will become a hoarder with no specific purpose for them. It made a lot of sense to incorporate them into my artworks, since they had a similar purpose to me: to satisfy my inner meaning of “beautiful”, whatever that word actually means. It is a wide range of objects, from computer parts to toys, even tools and usable objects. They all had their own aesthetics, colors and shapes, so rather than altering them by painting them or reshaping them, I found it more interesting into combining them with each other.
What are you working on right now, is there a project you are currently obsessed with?
Well, my last series of works is called “A WHOLE NEW WORLD” and it totally is exactly that for me. With my works becoming interactive and kinetic, I had to conquer new skills and start observing my art from a different angle. For that reason, I have the same feeling as I had when I was a little and started making my own drawings and becoming an artist. I feel super exited and empowered to just create new works and interested in seeing where that road is going to take me. I am obsessively researching online all the time, and figuring a new tools and system that I am going to incorporate into my work. I have a feeling that the possibilities are endless.
Do you ever have a feeling that everything has been done before?
Quite the opposite. I believe that everyone is unique, and even when you try to mimic and copy something you end up with the different content. Everybody has a different mindset and for that reason no result can be same as some other.
With that being said, art needs to be powerful, and that is the hardest part. You need to find your own way in making it powerful, and if you try to copy some other idea of it, you end up on the opposite side of it. When art comes from your personal evolution and from your own story, that is where the energy inside it come from. Its about honesty.
Can you imagine a world without art?
I guess its what hell looks like.
What work of art do you wish you owned? Who’s your favorite living artist?
I was always fascinated by the lifestyle, or how I imagined it at least, of the art superstars. I always felt they experienced real form of freedom, as much as it is possible nowadays. It also changes all the time as my art evolves. When I was a student I really liked Takashi Murakami, all those new worlds, and the level of detail in them. Later on it was Jeff Koons, I liked him because everybody was hating on him [laughs], but I also learned a lot observing his evolution as an artist. Tom Sachs is a very interesting character, I had a chance to meet him in an exhibition we both participated in. It was also first time for me to see his work in person. It was both very professional and monumental, and so naïve at the same time. It expressed the ambition and significance of the work itself, but it talked about artist’s freedom to do whatever he wants as well. That duality is what art to me is. Nam Jun Paik is also one of the influences for sure, he was such a visionary. Jimmie Durham as well, I loved his sculptures at this years Venice Biennale. I like the works of the young and emerging artists as well. For example, Katja Novitskova and Guan Xiao among others. They bring new things to the table, and I am very interested into what they’re future art is going to be like.
Regarding the art I’d like to own, it should be something very expensive, whatever one. [laughs]
What superpower would you like to have and why?
If not all of them, I guess being invisible and immaterial would be the most fun. It is also connected to freedom I guess: not to be restricted to do or go wherever I wish. I would have to be able to come back to my regular shape.
What do you want the world to know about Vuk Cuk?
All about my artwork I guess.
What are your plans for the future?
To keep developing my art and see where it gets me.
Keep up with Vuk on Instagram @vukcar